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Monitoring Unblu in a Kubernetes cluster

When you install Unblu into a Kubernetes cluster, you can choose to embed a preconfigured metrics and monitoring stack. The stack has the following components:

  • Prometheus continuously discovers all pods, scrapes metrics, and stores them on disk.

  • Grafana retrieves metrics from Prometheus and visualizes them using dashboards.

  • Alertmanager receives alerts defined in Prometheus. It deduplicates them and then sends them to any configured outside system.

  • kube-state-metrics (KSM) generates and exposes cluster-level metrics scraped by Prometheus.

  • Blackbox exporter is used by Prometheus to run HTTP probes that test the availability of certain cluster components.

How each component works is outlined below.


Prometheus is at the core of Unblu’s metrics and monitoring suite. It’s used for several tasks:

  1. Discover all pods in the namespace using the Kubernetes API.

  2. Scrape metrics from discovered pods.

  3. Store scraped metrics on disk.

  4. Evaluate alert rules and send alerts to Alertmanager.

  5. Run queries written in PromQL on the collected metrics.

Prometheus has a flexible configuration and can be used to monitor a variety of sources. The instance that’s deployed with Unblu is configured as outlined below.

  • Pods exposing metrics are annotated with Metrics are then accessed using an HTTP GET request on host:80/metrics or on the port and path specified in a separate annotation.

    Listing 1. Annotations evaluated by Unblu’s Prometheus instance
    annotations: (1) "true" "7080" "/system/prometheus"
    1 These annotations access metrics with a GET request on http://host:7080/system/prometheus.
  • The HTTP metrics endpoint returns metrics in the following text format:

    Listing 2. Prometheus metrics format
    # documentation
    metrics_name{tag="sample"} number
  • Some applications provide such a metrics endpoint out of the box. Others have an exporter that converts the metrics into the Prometheus format (see Prometheus exporters).

    Listing 3. Prometheus metrics format
    # HELP http_request_total http request counter
    # TYPE http_request_total counter
    http_request_total{handler="/",method="get",statuscode="200"} 2
    http_request_total{handler="/*",method="get",statuscode="200"} 20
    http_request_total{handler="/*",method="get",statuscode="302"} 3
  • Prometheus automatically deletes old metrics when they use more than 6 GiB of disk space. The retention period varies depending on the amount of activity in the cluster.

  • You can use a port forward for temporary access to Prometheus.

    Listing 4. Use a port forward to export Prometheus on localhost:9090
    kubectl port-forward service/prometheus 9090:80


Grafana is an open-source analytics and monitoring application that supports a wide variety of data sources. Unblu’s metrics suite only uses the Prometheus data source.

  • All the configuration required, including the dashboards, are provisioned automatically, so the Grafana installation doesn’t use a persistent disk.

  • By default, Grafana isn’t accessible from outside the cluster. For temporary access, use a port forward. For permanent access, use an Ingress/Route.

    Listing 5. Use a port forward to export Grafana on localhost:3000
    kubectl port-forward service/grafana 3000:80
  • Grafana is configured to create an admin user with "secret" as the default password in grafana-secrets.yaml.

    Always patch the grafana secret to a more secure password when exposing it using an Ingress/Route.


Prometheus is configured with an array of product-specific alerts (see alerts.yaml).

Listing 6. Alert: more than 1 failed login per second over the period of a minute
alert: FailedLogins
expr: "rate(session_logins_total{result="failed"}[1m]) > 1"
for: 1m
  severity: critical
  summary: "More than one failed login per second"
  description: "{{ $value }} failed logins in the last minute on {{ $labels.kubernetes_pod_name }}"

Prometheus evaluates the alerts and then sends them to the Alertmanager deployment.

In its default configuration (see alertmanager.yml), no action is taken. Here’s an example action that sends alerts to a Slack channel:

Listing 7. Alertmanager configuration sending Slack messages and a webhook
  slack_api_url:<secret_part> (1)

- name: default-receiver
    - url: (2)
    - channel: '#test' (3)
      send_resolved: true
      icon_emoji: ':rotating_light:'
      title: 'Alert: {{ .Status | toUpper }}'
      text: |
        {{ range .Alerts }} *{{ index .Annotations "summary" }}* - {{ index .Annotations "description" }} _({{ index .Labels "kubernetes_namespace" }})_
        {{ end }}

  group_interval: 5m (4)
  group_wait: 10s
  receiver: default-receiver
  repeat_interval: 3h (5)
1 Replace <secret_part> with the appropriate value.
2 Webhook URL to POST the alert to. Consult the Prometheus documentation for the exact format.
3 Slack channel to use when posting the alert.
4 Only send the resolved notification when the alert wasn’t firing for five minutes.
5 Wait for three hours after an alert was sent before sending it again.

Other supported channels include Email and PagerDuty.

To use a project-specific Alertmanager configuration, add the following lines to kustomization.yaml:

Listing 8. Replace the default configuration with a project specific one in kustomization.yaml
- name: alertmanager-config
  behavior: replace
    - alertmanager.yml

Silencing alerts in Alertmanager

You can mute alerts in Alertmanager. You may decide to do this, for example, because your installation has a known issue.

First, create a port-forward to access Alertmanager:

Listing 9. Create port-forward to access Alertmanager
kubectl -n namespace port-forward service/alertmanager 9093:80

You can now access Alertmanager on localhost:9093.

List of alerts
Figure 1. List of active alerts

Next, select the label that identifies the alert you want to silence, for example alertname=ResponseCode4xx, and click Silence.

Create new silence
Figure 2. Create a new silence

Silences are valid for a specific time such as 14d or 24h and can be documented with a creator as well as a comment.


kube-state-metrics (KSM) is a service that continuously polls the Kubernetes API and exposes the information as Prometheus metrics. Examples of such metrics are:

  • kube_deployment_status_replicas_available{deployment="collaboration-server"}--Available Collaboration Server pods

  • kube_pod_container_info{pod="collaboration-server-68b4c86fcb-5dgkn"}--Details of a specific pod, such as the exact Docker image used

  • kube_pod_created{pod="kafka-1"}--The timestamp when a specific pod was created

Some of these metrics are used in the dashboards provisioned by Grafana.

Blackbox exporter

Prometheus uses the blackbox exporter pod to run HTTP probes identified by the annotation on any deployed service.

Listing 10. HTTP probe configuration
annotations: "true" "/unblu/rest/product" "Unblu"

By default, a probe named "Unblu" is configured on the NGINX service. It triggers a request through all caching and load-balancing layers in the cluster.

The results of this probe are exposed as Prometheus metrics.

Listing 11. Metrics of the probe results
probe_success{kubernetes_service="nginx",probe_name="Unblu",probe_path="/unblu/rest/product"} 1
probe_http_status_code{kubernetes_service="nginx",probe_name="Unblu",probe_path="/unblu/rest/product"} 200
probe_duration_seconds{kubernetes_service="nginx",probe_name="Unblu",probe_path="/unblu/rest/product"}	0.014600436
probe_http_content_length{kubernetes_service="nginx",probe_name="Unblu",probe_path="/unblu/rest/product"}	395


Federate Prometheus metrics

The Prometheus server embedded in the Unblu cluster deployment is preconfigured to scrape from all Unblu components.

You can use Prometheus federation to scrape all Unblu-specific metrics from the Unblu Prometheus pod and copy them into a company-managed Prometheus instance.

Listing 12. Prometheus federation example
- job_name: 'federate-unblu-prometheus'
  scrape_interval: 10s (1)
  honor_labels: true
  metrics_path: '/federate'
      - '{kubernetes_namespace="unblu"}' (2)
    - targets:
      - 'prometheus.unblu.svc.cluster.local:80' (2)
1 The scrape interval has to be 10 seconds or less. Internally, Unblu collects metrics every 10 seconds.
2 Replace unblu with the actual namespace.

Alternatively, you can duplicate this configuration (see config/prometheus.yml) into a company-managed shared Prometheus server. If you take this approach, you should check the Unblu Prometheus configuration for any changes when you update your installation. You should then update your Prometheus configuration to mirror those changes.

Storing metrics permanently

Prometheus isn’t designed to be used as a long-term storage location for data.

To permanently store metrics, you can combine federation with remote write.

Listing 13. Prometheus remote write example using InfluxDB
  - url: ""
Remote write can be used without federation.